U.S. health authorities are preparing for a post-Thanksgiving flu shot push, at the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control. Despite a record 110 million doses scheduled to be produced, disribution delays have deprived many state health departments and private physicians from as much as half their order.
CDC officials are promoting Nov. 27-Dec. 3 as "National Influenza Vaccination Week." The CDC is encouraging a "late season" vaccination drive, as consumer demand often drops off sharply in late November, due to a mistaken belief that the only time to get vaccinated is before Thanksgiving, and even though flu season often doesn't peak until February.
The worry is that a large amount of unused vaccine would cause manufacturers to decrease production in the future.
"It's very important to maximize our production, not only to control seasonal influenza, but so we can be prepared to handle the production of vaccine if an influenza pandemic emerges," said Dr. Howard Baker, chief of the Immunization Branch for the California Department of Health Services.
These concerns come amid an avian flu outbreak that has killed 56 people in Malaysia, and fears that it could mututate and become more easily transmittable in humans.